For several months, one of the biggest missing components for Scouting units has been outdoor activities like camping. When the Arkansas State Health Dept announced that tent camping would be allowed at Arkansas State Parks beginning June 1, it signaled to the Quapaw Area Council that it was safe to go back into the woods, at least with proper precautions.
So what should a unit do that wants to plan an activity? As of this date, we are aware of no specific Health Department directives aimed at explaining to groups about tent camping, however there are various directives that give us some really good guidance that you should be aware of. The CDC has provided some great considerations for youth camping. Of course, the most important source for guidance on camping should always be the Arkansas State Dept of Health. Another very helpful source would be the BSA’s COVID FAQ.
First, all general guidance from the CDC always applies. Including:
- Those who are at higher risk should consider not participating.
- Wash hands frequently (this can be challenging at camp so extra care is needed). Hand sanitizer is helpful but does not replace washing hands.
- Avoid close contact by maintaining a 6 foot distance between individuals
- Wear cloth face masks whenever possible to protect other people. Be sure to cover coughs and sneezes at all times.
- Anyone who has any symptoms of COVID-19 should not participate in the activity.
In addition, guidance with regard to camping activities has emphasized some other guidance:
- All efforts should be made to limit the congregation of youth. Group sizes should be limited to 10 or less.
- Interaction should be avoided between groups of 10 to limit potential exposure (i.e. once groups of 10 are established participants should remain in their groups and not switch or intermingle).
- Screen all youth and adult participants for all symptoms before departing
- Because all risk of Covid-19 transmission can never be eliminated, you are encouraged to obtain a signed At-Risk Acknowledgement similar to the model one provided by BSA from each participant/parent.
- Where possible, it might be best to limit to one scout per tent
- Scouts who are using hammocks should place them such that their heads are at least 6 feet apart. Of course, “stacking” of hammocks is never permitted.
- Any shared equipment should be cleaned and/or sanitized between use by different individuals.
Though this may seem at first to be restrictive, we believe that with planning it can be accomplished in a way that still offers a great outdoor experience for Scouts while still reducing risk.
Units are permitted to camp at the Short Term areas at the Gus Blass Scout Reservation. Units may make reservations by completing the Short Term Application and submitting it to the council office at least 14 days in advance.